In order to look more appealing to the often resistant-of-subtitles American audiences, many foreign films rely on favorable comparisons to popular American films. So when the 2010 Danish film Klown premiered in the U.S. and was picked up for distribution by Drafthouse Films, the comparisons between it and the smash-hit comedy The Hangover were inevitable and mostly justified. Both films are over-the-top comedies about a group of male friends on a road trip full of sex, drugs, and bad idea after bad idea.
Though the storyline more closely resembles The Hangover, the style of comedy on display mirrors the uncomfortable humor, self-satire, and a comical exploration of societal taboos that shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm or the British version of The Office do so well. In fact, Klown was developed from a similar Danish TV sitcom of the same name. These similarities are clear and welcome, but others – like the wine-tasting, mid-life crisis road trip of Sideways and even the fish-out-of-water-with-a-kid angle of Big Daddy – can be made too if you want to go that route.
This absurdist comedy begins at a wedding (like The Hangover) as Frank is surprised to learn from a friend that his girlfriend is pregnant – a secret she was keeping from him, unsure of his “daddy potential.” So, in an effort to prove his parental prowess, Frank takes on babysitting duties for Bo, his quiet, awkward nephew. This scenario provides plenty of fodder for comedy (see Big Daddy), but Frank decides to add a bit more turmoil to the situation by dragging the boy with him on previously planned getaway with his irresponsible, sex-crazed friend Casper (and there is the Sideways parallel).
Their buddy-buddy getaway is a canoe/camping trip set to take them downriver to a large music festival with friends, and more importantly, a legendary brothel run by the leader of their book club – which they joined specifically to make friends with him. Of course, neither read the selected book (interestingly enough, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, about another ill-fated riverboat) and as punishment, must undergo a public “schnozzle,” a hilariously degrading reprimand that Frank flat-out refuses.
Once in the canoe and on their way, one bad decision leads to another (often evolving from some ill-advised sexual adventure or misguided attempt at parenting). They escape from one predicament only to find themselves quickly embroiled in another, as passers-by (and the innocent, young Bo) look on in disbelief. It is, of course, these steadily-escalating misadventures that receive most of the film’s laughs. And it is also here where Klown first separates itself from The Hangover and other American comedy counterparts – it is significantly more graphic, sexual, and overall more daring and adult. Frank and Casper are willing to go above and beyond for laughs, but their deadpan jokes rarely feel forced and even the few that are predictable are still rewarding and realistic. They also clearly do not mind if they offend, in fact, they are probably trying to do just that.
But that is not the only place Klown distinguishes itself from those convenient comparisons. Despite all their foolish depravity, Frank and Casper (though more from the former) manage to keep the audience rooting for them. The movie has surprisingly plenty of heart without falling into the saccharine or schmaltzy, a tricky feat most comedies (especially vulgar ones) have difficulty tightrope-walking.
And as with most successful foreign films, there is already a remake of Klown in the works from director Todd Phillips (Old School, Road Trip, and appropriately, The Hangover) and starring Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down, Pineapple Express). But who knows how this planned remake (which is a weary undertaking to begin with) will pan out once it is diluted enough for mainstream audiences.
Klown will screen at Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center starting Friday, August 17 with nightly screenings at 7:30 p.m.
And the film comes with a special warning from the theater, as posted on their website . . . Please Note: This is a very rough ‘R” so don’t blame us if you are totally offended! (Because I absolutely loved it!)
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